Clonakilla O’Riada Shiraz 2011

The gulf between quality and pleasure can be vast.

One of the mistakes of wine appreciation is to assume one is equivalent to the other – that, somehow, a wine with length and complexity, one that ticks all the boxes of canonical wine quality, will taste good and provide pleasure. Or, equally, that a wine one likes must be framed as a wine of quality. Sometimes the two meet, and it’s glorious. But this intersection isn’t necessary for intense pleasure, and a wine which delivers an amount of sensual enjoyment even as it lacks some key ingredients deserves to be as vigorously defended, if not more so, than a wine of perfect form.

I’d never put this forward as a wine of comprehensive quality. In fact, it’s quite flawed on a formal level, lacking the length and definition one might reasonably demand at this price point. It’s also light on, almost exposed, and hence treads the line of being disappointingly insubstantial. All of this no doubt a function of difficult vintage conditions — if that matters.

The fact this has given me more pleasure over the past few days than any number of better wines is a matter for some introspection, and no mean challenge when it comes time to write. If there’s a shared element to those things I love despite their flaws — genre cinema, Proust, Four’N Twenty pies — it’s that their distinctive pleasures are so outsize, so overwhelming, as to obliterate (or at least make tolerable) their evident shortcomings. So this, a wine with inadequate body and length, and one which fades far too quickly with air, is also the most explosively spiced, fragrant Shiraz of any I’ve tasted in recent months. Its song on attack is so charming it carries the wine’s slight blur right through its moderate line and textured finish.

Is it wrong to enjoy a wine so much for being so little? No — indeed, what’s wrong is to contain enjoyment within the narrow confines of Platonic form. Wine is many things, people are varied, and the intersections between a wine and its audience are bound to be complex. I know this isn’t the greatest wine, yet I’m happy to have opened a bottle that made me smile, as much for what it lacks as what it gives.

Price: $A35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

2 thoughts on “Clonakilla O’Riada Shiraz 2011

  1. You and your love of pies 🙂

    Some very astute observations about the common divergence between quality and drinking pleasure there sir. As another wine writer said the other day ‘I prefer to drink beer from cans and gin and tonic’

    • Pies are the best. 🙂 I do find the tension between pleasure and quality as it is commonly understood to be very interesting and underexamined in the wine culture.

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